By Roy Mathur, on 2023-12-14, at 23:15:10--23:49:53 GMT, for Captain Roy's Rusty Rocket Radio Show
This episode was scheduled for the 10th, but I was still sick when I wrote these notes on the 7th. It's a week later and I'm still sick, but if I don't podcast now, I probably never will. Bear in mind this episode may sound wobbly because I'm wobbly.
What happened? Mum became sick. I looked after Mum and contracted the infection myself. Shortly thereafter, Dad caught it too. I got the worst of it because whatever tropical toughness my parents possess wasn't passed down to their wimpy son. This is not Corona (I took a test), but bacteriological according to my GP. (NB Though there are other nasty bugs around besides Corona, like the one I have, my doctor said Corona is on the rise again too and all the surgery staff were masked).
I hope the run-up to your Christmases are free of illness and stress. Chance wound be... etc., but don't sweat it. On the big day, if you forget to buy a pudding or the poultry isn't ready, relax and have a mince pie. If even that's too much, and you can afford it, there is no shame in ordering fast food.
Final 2023 special, 62 min, December 9th 2023, follows Wild Blue Yonder covered in pod 514, featuring Doctors 14 (David Tennant) and 15 (Ncuti Gatwa), Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), Melanie Bush (Bonnie Langford), The Celestial Toymaker (Neil Patrick Harris), written by Russell T. Davies, produced by Russell T. Davies et al, and directed by Chanya Button.
In the past, John Logie Baird's assistant buys a creepy Stooky Bill doll from the equally creepy and obnoxious proprietor of a local toy shop. Back in the lab, they use it to test a primitive television transmission.
In the present, with people going berserk and running amuck in the street, the Doctor is taken to UNIT, where he is delighted to meet Mel. Using alien tech, a special armband imbues UNIT staff with immunity from a subliminal message in TV transmissions.
He and Donna track down source to the toy shop in 1925 and are trapped within it's labyrinthine confines by the Toymaker, a villain he defeated long ago. (The Celestial Toymaker (1966), starring Michael Gough; Alfred from Burton's Batman, covered in pod 54 from 2014).
The Toymaker, pursued by the Doctor, attacks UNIT, shoots the Doctor who begins to regenerate, but splits into 15, while the defeated Toymaker folds up and is trapped in a wooden box. His gold tooth, apparently containing the Master he boasted of imprisoning earlier, is surreptitiously stolen with the Master's laughter echoing in the background.
14 retires with Donna, but retains his old TARDIS---split into two after 15 hits it with a large wooden mallet---while 15 begins his own adventures, still in his underpants.
New theme music? Fans endlessly argue about the changing theme music of DW. Murray Gold was involved in the music of New Who 2005--17, then there was Segun Akinola and, of course, Old Who had Peter Howell, John Debney, and others fiddling with the original. The less said about Mankind's anaemic low energy disco-lite version, the better. You'd have thought given my love of disco and Who that... but no, just no. So why don't I talk about it? Me for, anything after Ron Grainer, Delia Derbyshire and Dick Mills isn't offensive, but a pale imitation and very forgettable take on the original and the best.
The results of my post-broadcast Twitter poll (2023-12-09 20:31) were: "Great = 72.7%, Average = 13.6%, Poor = 13.6%". Voter @Sarah_Schyg also said, "Reasons: recycled storyline (let's doooo the tiiiime clooooone again!), bad guy has a German accent, some resolutions were really boring (really? Old face back to come home to Donna? That was it?) Some good ideas but A LOT of lazy writing choices" and "As a German myself, I actually found it very hurtful. I'm tired of the cliche". I also found the deliberately faux-German accent very distracting and compliment Sarah on her Rocky Horror mashup; one simply can't get enough of those.
As well as Neil Patrick Harris's awful accent, I altogether hated every aspect of his version of the Toymaker. He played an entirely unlikeable, faintly racist, annoying character, without any saving grace whatsoever. It was distracting to watch and I can't imagine what possessed Russell T. Davies, other than having been inspired by the worst of Michelle Gomez's campy Mary Poppins, Sacha Diwan's prancing maniacal Victorian, and John Simm's psychotic menace.
There's a lot of finer details I can't remember about this that I was reminded of when downloading the BBC poster for this story. The problem is Harris's performance was so over-the-top that it's blotted out almost everything else that happened.
I thought the Doctor and Mel reuniting was a sweet touch, but, though I haven't reached Colin Baker's Fifth Doctor in my revisit, I seem to remember that he wasn't very nice to Mel. Maybe it was a lost opportunity, not having a companion who wasn't pleased to meet again. That would have been a great twist.
Mitosis? Is the lack of confidence in Gatwa so high that they will stoop to this ridiculous contrivance as a backup, should Gatwa not prove popular? I've already said too many companions diluted Jodie's Doctor and how Tennant's presence will undermine Gatwa. This is why interviewing cast is a zero sum game. What could I ask Gatwa that would not be harmful or that he could even answer? My suspicion are that he's grateful for the role, secretly chaffing with the imposition of Tennant, but hedging that he will be a better Doctor.
TV menace? Subliminal messaging in TV broadcasts are very old hat as far as science fiction plots go and I am surprised Davies' would dig up such an old chestnut. This isn't the first time a Davies era story has criticised television either. (See Mark Gatiss's The Idiot's Lantern (2006)). Not his own content, of course, one assumes, but everybody else's. Blimey, it take a proper ego to do that.
Is it any good? 2023 Specials in my order of preference: Wild Blue Yonder, The Giggle, The Star Beast. It's not bad, it's not terrible, it's slap bang in the middle average. My rating obviously does not tally with the majority, but if it did, this would be a very boring podcast.
It's brave of Gatwa starting his adventures in his underpants, but if anyone can pull it off... sorry.
It is odd that Davies' side-swipe at TV arrived at this point in my life.
You know how illness can cange your sense of taste? That happened to me, but not the way you may think. You see, it's not biscuits I suddenly found unpalatable, but content. I suddenly found many of the YouTube channels to which I subscribe, repellent. I unsubscribed to many, including review channels that are glorified TV shopping and media like the BBC and Doctor Who. I still, of course, love Doctor Who and can enjoy it even more without the endless spoilers. I did a minor clear out of my podcasts too.
This isn't my first mass unsubcription, but it might be the most ruthless. Goodbye, ceaseless, prattling noise.
I am not unaware of the irony of a content creator unsubscribing, then being unsubcribed from themselves. I hope you enjoy listening to me, but if you feel my pod isn't for you, then goodbye and no hard feelings, but also perhaps say what you'd like on the show before you decide to pull the plug. In my defence, I'm the podcaster least likely to go off on a long ramble about production finance, though I know some people like that sort of thing. What is wrong with them?